Bruce a tough act to follow

This Sunday at halftime a player that not only set the franchise record for sacks, but the league record as well will be recognized by the Bills organization for all that he accomplished and contributed as part of a four-time AFC Championship team.

Sitting in the home locker room at that time preparing for a second half will be an accomplished player in his own right that's had the unenviable task of following Bruce Smith and the high standard that he set.

Aaron Schobel is a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end, but when you're measured up against a player that went to 11 making a name for yourself isn't easy.

Comparing the two players is almost a fruitless pursuit. Yes, both men possess Pro Bowl caliber talent, but it pretty much ends there. Both were in their prime in different eras, both had different players around them and they played in different defensive fronts (3-4 vs. 4-3).

The accolades for Smith however, are much more far reaching than they have ever been for Schobel. Maybe it's because Smith's resume is complete. Being the all-time leader in sacks has its advantages.

But what is likely the greatest reason that Schobel's exploits haven't received more prominent recognition is the fact that he's played on a team that's had a total of one winning season and no playoff appearances since he's been in Buffalo.

Two men that have seen a lot of football and both of these players up close and personal believe it to be the case.

"We certainly haven't been as successful as Bruce's teams were with the franchise going to four Super Bowls," said Bills Vice President of College Scouting Tom Modrak. "In addition Bruce was the first pick overall and obviously all eyes were on him anyway all the time. Then you're part of a great era with four Super Bowls and you get more acclaim. Those moons lined up right."

Bills Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy agrees.

"Aaron's team is on the ascent and as they begin to achieve more and more the spotlight will fall on him more," Levy said. "Bruce played on a team that won a number of conference championships. So that was in focus and those tremendous sack statistics catch everybody's eye. But they're both fine football players."

There are other Bills players that have had to follow prominent players on those AFC Championship teams. Eric Moulds had to follow all-time leading receiver Andre Reed. Antowain Smith followed Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas and Todd Collins followed Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. Some obviously experienced more success than others.

Moulds broke Reed's records for most receptions and most receiving yards in a season and did it in two different years. He also broke his record for most consecutive games with a reception.

Matching Smith's sack totals however, seem virtually insurmountable. Still as impressive as Smith's resume is Schobel's numbers aren't far off.

In his first six years in the league the Bills all-time sack leader had five double-digit sack seasons. Schobel had three. After seven seasons Schobel is only 11 sacks off Smith's pace.

The Bills current top pass rusher has a chance of reaching 100 career sacks by the end of his 10th season. Schobel would have to average 11 sacks a year over the next three seasons counting this season to pull it off. With a defense that through the first two weeks of 2008 looks much improved the goal seems realistic.

And though after 10 seasons Smith had 116 sacks, if Schobel reaches the century mark in the same amount of time he'll be only the eighth defensive end in league history to do so joining Smith with names like Reggie White and Michael Strahan.

Putting himself in that class with his play on the field would be the only way Schobel would want it.

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